3/26/2013

Gadchick Reviews: CocoPPa

I am somewhat wary of changing the status quo when it comes to my electronic devices, but I do appreciate a chance to personalize what and when I can. With my iPhone, I’ve done a little—Loki case, TARDIS background; I’ve even given it a name. (She’s called Wendy, if you were curious.)—but I’ve never really considered changing my icons. I didn’t actually know that it was possible. Until recently, that is. You might have seen screenshots on Pinterest of iPhone homepages decorated with custom icons. Most of the shots are taken post-CocoPPa makeover.
(Photos pulled from here.)
CocoPPa is an app that allows iPhone users to customize apps with icons of their choosing. The app is filled with a variety of icons and backgrounds, most of which are super cutesy (kawaii?). Although that's not a bad thing, it’s not quite my personal style.





When you use the app, the icons of the apps you’re customizing aren’t replaced, and you can’t delete the original app without losing all of your data. Essentially, CocoPPa helps you create cute shortcuts to your apps. When you click on the shortcut, both the shortcut and the original open, which doubles the amount of apps you have to close if you’re like me and a bit OCD about quitting apps. It also doubles the amount of apps you have to find a place for. You can create shortcuts to phone numbers, however, which is a cool idea, and the app also allows users to upload their own designs. One of my other issues is that the app can be a bit grammatically hard to follow; I’m pretty sure the version we Americans can download is a translated one. 

All in all, I like the idea of the app, but am not really a fan of the execution.
Download CocoPPa through iTunes. (If you're unsure of how to use the app once you've downloaded it, this tutorial is extremely thorough.)

3/18/2013

UP by Jawbone - A Gadchick Review

Sometimes, it is nice to be an early adopter. I had a 1st-gen iPod/brick that I carried with me for years and could replace the battery for. But when I was finally able to own a tiny one, I gladly traded up. In the case of the UP by Jawbone, their early adopters received a product that did have some serious issues. Luckily in this case I had waited, trying to decide between the UP and several other competitors. When I did decide to make my purchase, I was happily surprised to see the company had taken the issues their 1st-gen had suffered and improved the product greatly.

The UP by Jawbone is more than a pedometer or an app to track your life, it is a one-stop habit changing machine. From its data tracking (sleep, activity, food, and mood) to its built in features like an Idle Alert that reminds you to move around, I've been amazed by the motivation provided to beat my daily goals and the native iPhone app's ability to give me an overview on my day. My favorite features have been the overall sleep and activity trackers, helping me start to narrow down why I'm a little more tired one day or pushing me to make sure I got enough movement despite my desk job everyday. Also, it just looks like a bracelet and comes in a rainbow of colors, allowing you to pair it with both business appropriate attire or pajamas.





The list of cons with the UP is pretty short:
1) iPhone-Only
As an iPhone user,
this is not a huge con for me. But for all of you Android fans,
according to their message board, your app is right around the corner.

2) No Bluetooth Support.
I have a hard time making this a con but it is a valid one for those considering between the UP and some of its competitors. However, the flip side to this is how great the battery life is and how easy the sync process is (via your headphone jack).

3) Reliability of Data
No band
on the market is going to be 100% right on all personal data, but no
pedometer can claim 100% accuracy either. You have to take your received
metrics about steps taken and sleep with a grain of salt. What I've
done to help calibrate is use the band with other apps like Sleep Cycle
to judge validity.

4) Lack of Non-Native App Support
My largest complaint is the lack of support and integration with popular iPhone apps. While the UP's app is extremely useful, it would be great to see it interact with apps like RunKeeper.
But despite any of these cons, I highly recommend the UP by Jawbone and suggest it to anyone looking to establish new healthy habits or keep tabs on the ones they already have. What originally started as a neat accessory and a potential fun gadget has turned into a must-have daily device that I love.

3/14/2013

Talk Nerdy to Me: Women in Podcasts


 © geww - Fotolia.com


Podcasts are a great way to get more information about specific topics, stay up on news for niche communities, and sometimes just a fantastic story. Generally free, podcasts are digital recordings created by individuals that are available for download through sites like iTunes.

Gadchick is no stranger to podcasts and while there are thousands of fantastic podcasts available for
download, we want to focus on three podcasts that are co-hosted my women.

The podcasts cover things that Gadchicks dig: General geekry, tech-culture, and comics:

1.      Geek Friday 

Geek Friday is a weekly show co-hosted by Faith Korpi.
This show focuses on, “exploring, discussing, and reality-checking your favorite geek topics, including
technology, television, movies, music, comics, gear, and more.” Faith’s co-host is Jason Seifer and their chemistry is great! He focuses on the tech side of things while Faith focuses on the more pop-culture side of things. They are a great duo and they record the podcast in the same studio, so they are able to interact more than other podcasters recording from different places.

If this is your first time listening to Geek Friday, may I suggest:
  • Episdoe 4, in which Faith and Jason discuss Twitter hacks, ear plugs at concerts, Disney princesses, Forrest Gump, the Nixon Administration, human shields, and more while they wait for the FedEx truck to deliever iPhone 4s's.
  • Episode 51, in which Faith and Jason discuss Thanksgiving, Skitch, buying random things from Amazon, and continue the debate of Geek vs Nerd.
  • Episode 62, in which Faith and Jason discuss Emoji, self driving cars, Google Glass, the Oscars, and more.

 

2.        In Beta

Gina Trapani co-hosts
In Beta, which is on the same network as Geek Friday.  
In Beta focuses on topics “about tech culture, making open source software, and how mobile, social, and web apps are changing the world”. Gina's co-host is Kevin Purdy, and like Faith and Jason, they have a fun chemistry and seem to have a good time recording the show...nobody wants to listen to podcasters who don't sound like they want to be recording, right? Unlike Geek Friday, In Beta focuses way more on technology, so Gina and Kevin are able to focus on specific topics for longer. If you're not into talking about pop culture and want to focus on the newest gadgets this is the podcast for you.

If this is your first time listening to In Beta, may I suggest:
  • Episode 36, where Gina and Kevin chat about the new Mailbox app and the "mythical point" known as inbox zero
  • Episode 35, where Gina and Kevin chat about the point and the pitfalls of teaching yourself how to code using online tutorials. 
  • Episode 7, where Gina and Dan (also from the 5 by 5 network) chat about discuss how newly appointed CEO Marissa Mayer is Yahoo's new hope, how to stop compulsively checking your phone while you're on vacation, and the Nexus 7.

 

3.      Talking Comics


Talking Comics has a panel of comic-lovers, including Stephanie Cooke.
Talking Comics covers different comic-themed topics including: news, current story arcs, and movies and television. My favorite part of the show is when the panelists share their favorite reads because sometimes you need more than a superhero.

If this is your first time listening to Talking Comics, may I suggest:
  • Various episodes: Interview with Trina Robins, the cartoonist and comic book historian, who has been in the industry for over 30 years and worked on Wonder Woman. The artist for the hit series, Saga, Fiona Staples joins the podcast for an interview  Also, two interviews with Kelly Sue Deconnick (one and two) who is the current writer for Captain Marvel among other projects.
  • Episode 40: On this episode of Talking Comics, Bobby, Steve, Bob and Stephanie talk about some of their favorite female comic book characters as well as their favorite comic book creators. 
  • Episode 46: On this episode, the panel celebrates 50 years of Spider-Man

What are your favorite podcasts?

Google Reaper

If you haven’t heard by now, let me ruin your day a little- Google Reader is shutting down July 1, 2013
Most of us have been faithful to the bookmarking site since 2005 and change is hard. In November 2011, Google announced it was shutting down the sharing feature, one of the best things I remember about the internet.  It was an attempt to push Google +, something I only lasted on for less than 6 months. The momentum was dull and I read more about MySpace these days than Google’s attempt at social networking. I understand companies wanting to change for what is best for them, but there is a sense of disappointment when their loyal users are left out. What’s worse is the companies who used Google Reader’s synchronization to stay in business.





Don’t worry, Google isn’t the only bookmarking site available. Listed are the best alternatives to keep up with your favorite sites
Twitter and Facebook- ok so this one may get a little messy but if you make lists for your favorite bloggers, you can keep up with their posts.
Bloglovin’- Bloglovin’ has slowly blown up over the past couple of years. It’s gained a huge amount of momentum with female bloggers especially. Most of the blogs are fashion, lifestyle and craft, but even those aren’t the typical blogs you read, the format is simple. Add your favorite blogs, and read it in their natural state.
Feedly- Thankfully, Feedly promises to change over your feeds from Google to theirs with no issues. As of the time this was written, the site kept crashing but hopefully that’s just a hiccup in the high traffic. According to Engagdget, Feedly has been waiting for Google Reader to stop use. They've built their own network and are fixing bugs for higher usage.
Reeder- Ok, I love and use Reeder on my iPhone. It’s more seamless than Google Reader and syncs with what I’ve read. It’s simple to read, share, label and favorite posts. This is only available for Apple.
The Old Reader- yep, it’s like older Google Reader, minus the sharing. From what I tried to research, they don’t piggyback on the synchronization of Google, so hopefully that will stick around. It’s simple and beautiful.
We are open on discussing more ways to read your favorite blogs, let us know below or on Twitter. What will be your alternative to Google Reader?

3/13/2013

D.I.Y. Doctor Who Adipose Sweater


 



To say I’m obsessed with graphic pullovers is an understatement -- I have at least twenty knitted pullovers adorned with the likes of my favorite Disney characters, hearts, horses, foxes, elephants, and even Darth Vader! However, the lack of knitted Doctor Who goods made me quite sad, but once I stumbled upon a D.I.Y. tutorial on how to make your own heart pullover inspired by J.Crew’s (which can be found here), I thought I could easily apply that to anything else.

Thus, the Adipose sweater!

Materials needed to make your Adipose sweater:




  • Blank pullover (any color)
  • Off-white, black felt, pure white felt (optional
    for fang)
  • Infusible Web
  • Black marker
  • Image of Adipose for stencil
  • Black and white embroidery thread + needle
  • Fabric glue (optional)
There are several ways to make your sweater. The way I did mine was slightly complicated so I’m going to share a few alternatives to make this DIY project less so. But if you’re into complicated, that’s cool too!
First, print out or draw an image of an Adipose. I found one on ThinkGeek.com and modified it in Photoshop, then put it into a Word Document and made it as big as I possibly could.

 For your convenience, here's the stencil I used:  





Once you have a printed image, you can either...


1. Trace an outline of the image onto the off-white felt with a black permanent marker (the felt is see through enough, but I used a light box to help me out a bit).  OR...




2. An easier way to do it is to cut the image of the Adipose out leaving an outline behind. Place it on top of your felt and trace it.

This is what your felt should look like after tracing:





For my sweater I opted to hand stitch a black outline. This step takes forever (approximately 4 hours on my end, with some breaks in between) and you will definitely get a hand cramp! If you don’t have the patience for it you can either skip doing an outline OR create one with black felt and use fabric glue.





Next, cut out two circles and a strip for the eyes and mouth with black felt. For this step you can either hand stitch them on OR use fabric glue. And if you want, you can also cut a little white triangle to create a fang for the Adipose.






You can add a little bit of white to the eyeball to make the Adipose look more lively.





Once you’re done with the details on the Adipose, take the infusible web and place the sticky side to the back of your Adipose and iron it on. Afterwards cut the Adipose out and remove the paper, then place it on your sweater, and iron it on.









And voila! You’re done and have an Adipose sweater to call your own!

Here I am with my finished product!


You don’t have to limit yourself to just an Adipose – go crazy! Make a sweater with K-9 or Boba Fett’s helmet or whatever other design you can think of. 

Thanks for the tutorial, Nina! Nina is a fancy geek who blogs at le fancy geek. - ed.

3/11/2013

Great Sites for Female Gamers

Being a female gamer can be rough sometimes. You may get rude messages online about being a girl, you have to handle the lack of female player characters, and our gamer clothing options are never as plentiful as for dudes. However, as some surveys show 47% of the game playing population is female, we are starting to see more groups and websites being built to support the needs of our community. Here are just a few of those sites that you may want to check out:


© Alex Bayev - Fotolia.com


Girl Gamer
The title "Girl Gamer" can be a decisive one in amongst women who game. But while you may have issues with that term, Girl Gamer is an awesome community and resource for female gamers seeking out news and like-minds. Also unlike many sites that focus on just console or just PC gaming, Girl Gamer spans all platforms including mobile games. It also provides a great social network that can be very helpful in building your own gaming clan or just looking for someone to befriend on XBox Live. I also highly recommend checking out their Twitter for great posts and retweets from great gaming Twitter feeds.

Reddit's r/GirlGamers
While other gaming subreddits and message boards online don't exclude women, sometimes you do want your own community to, as r/GirlGamers states, "just post some bad ass makeup tutorials inspired by video games" . But in addition to posting topics and links that interest female gamers (recent topics include a father who altered Donkey Kong to have a female heroine) , the subreddit serves to unite gamers across platforms with those who share their interests and provide a safe space to game in.

The Border House
The Border House is a gaming site focused around providing commentary on marginalized groups in gaming including women, lgbt, and people of color. Sometimes on other gaming sites, it can be difficult to have a constructive discussion about the problems and flaws of our community and what The Border House does well is provide a safe space to discuss and critique the media we hold dear. It isn't about always agreeing with the viewpoint, but ensuring that it is being heard.

Girl Gamer Vogue
A great site combining articles, videos, and podcasting; GG Vogue calls itself  "a niche away from the norm." Covering mainstream topics like the PS4 press conference while also looking at topics related to fashion in games and awesome gaming crafts, the site provides a unique voice in gaming journalism today. 
 
The PMS Clan
Standing for "Pandora's Mighty Soliders", the PMS Clan is a gaming clan that spans all platforms, including the PC, for popular games like Halo and Call of Duty. While there are many other great female clans out there, the PMS Clan's website also provides news and forums directed towards women and their interests.

3/04/2013

Your Home's Best Friend - Automating Your Life Via Your IPhone




Every morning, my phone wakes me up, tells me my plans for the day, and reminds me to check in with my journal. Over the course of the day, it reminds me to eat my vegetables, warns me if it has started to rain, and alerts me that I have a bill due. One device plays a significant role in my day to day and I couldn't imagine my life without it, but it still has limitations about what it can accomplish.

However, as more people turn to their devices for day to day support, more companies are offering unique and useful ways to start filling in those limitations. The goal of easy household automation is on its way and your smartphone will be the key to making it work. While my phone can't make me breakfast yet, with all of the amazing gadgets hitting the market now, it can't be too far off:
  • Philips Hue
    Have you ever come home late in the evening and wished a light was turned on for you? Or have you ever woken up and wished that your bedroom light could be turned on for you but slowly to allow yourself to adjust? The Philips Hue takes a basic idea, controlling your lights via your phone, and makes it easy with a simple app and even simpler set-up. Working via a bridge through your home's WiFi, the Hue allows you to configure your light set-up from brightness to timing to color. You can even create lighting based on the light in your favorite photos.
  • Lockitron
    My purse is a black hole for my keys and, especially every winter and post every Target trip, I wish and hope for a simple app to unlock my door. While that was just idle daydreaming before, with the release of the Lockitron, I may never need to find my keys again. Using an app on your iPhone, the Lockitron can unlock your door automatically and alert you to anyone entering your home. Plus, set-up is as easy as placing it over your existing deadbolt so for anyone else who has dreamed of not needing to put all of your groceries down to unlock the door, our dream has become a crowd-funded reality.
  • Dropcam
    I am slightly obsessed with what my animals are doing while I'm at work. While most of the time I'm convinced that they are sleeping, other times I'm convinced that mischief is afoot. However, due to my cats love of sleeping on my laptop, depending on my webcam has never been an option. But with Dropcam, pet owners and non-pet owners who want an easy way to check in on their homes have been given a simple to set up method to view live video via app of what is going on at their home. Additionally, Dropcam can also alert you to motion detected via email or mobile alert and also can provide DVR service if you want to look back at old footage.
  • Nest
    The Nest thermostat is a great example of how a common tool can be improved and refined to be more useful, intuitive, and attractive for your household. Building on the common uses, the Nest doesn't just control your home's temperature but learns over time how to automate to your household's needs and energy usage. But in addition to that, the Nest can also be controlled via app allowing you to check in on your home and update the climate control as necessary.
  • Vera
    Many of the other tools I've spotlighted today feature easy to use and install ways of automating one part of your home. But if you are looking for something on a larger scale from raising the blinds, checking your security cameras, and even turning on your TV, there are many new products hitting the market now to achieve this. The Vera line of products is one example of these tools, allowing you to control most areas of your home via app or computer. While the effort to configure and set up might be higher, if you have ever dreamed of your home knowing when to turn up the heat because the weather says the temperature is going to drop or letting your cable guy into the house and watching him work via camera, these tools will help you achieve the future you would like to live in.